Updated Jun 05, 2018

Land for Life: Inga Alley-Cropping for Sustainability/Food Security/Saving Rainforests

The Inga Foundation’s simple but revolutionary system of Inga alley-cropping is a scientifically-proven solution to stopping the devastation of tropical rainforests by Its ability to regenerate land and transform the lives of subsistence farmers by providing food security and organic cash crops as well as significantly reduces global carbon emissions, protects wildlife and marine habitats, and preserves water sources

https://ingatree.org
Mike and abraham

Lorraine Potter

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Snapshot

Stage 4: Transition to Scale

We are in year 7 of the 10 year "Land for Life" project in Honduras. We will continue to add 40 families this year as we create a critical mass. Our project is unique as no one else in the world is implementing this kind of scientifically-proven, complete, and integrated ecosystem at the density and scale that we have achieved. Inga alley cropping can be easily replicated and scaled to the entire tropics using 300+ native, nitrogen-fixing species.

Focus Areas:

Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry

Agriculture, Nutrition and ForestrySEE LESS

Implemented In:

Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala and 2 MoreSEE MORE

Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala, Costa Rica and BelizeSEE LESS

5
Countries Implemented In
1,500
Customers
4
Employee
$100,000
Funds Raised to Date

Problem

Slash-and-burn is a subsistence farming method used by millions of families in the tropics. Annually, slash-and-burn contributes around two billion tons of carbon to the atmosphere--an amount greater than all global transport combined. Families cut down and burn a patch of forest in order to create an area of fertile soil on which they can grow their food. The soil fertility, however, does not last. Crop failure and erosion drives families who depend on slash-and-burn to clear fresh areas of rainforest every few years just to survive. Inga alley-cropping is the revolutionary alternative to slash-and-burn. Developed by the Inga Foundation’s founder and director, Mike Hands, in partnership with Cambridge University and resulting from over twenty-five years of research and development, the model is Inga Foundation’s response to the present and widespread problem of land degradation due to repeated slash-and-burn agriculture. Of the different potential options investigated by Hands, the only sustainable system to emerge from years of scientific research was Inga’s system of alley-cropping, which uses nitrogen-fixing tree species from the genus Inga. Inga trees maintain soil fertility and good harvests annually, thus breaking the slash-and-burn cycle and allowing families to gain long-term food security on one piece of land. Inga alleys out-compete aggressive and invasive weeds which dominate the farmers’ plots. This closed system is a revolutionary cycle--organic food for the families, organic cash crops, and a sustainable system which also protects water sources and prevents erosion.

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Solution

The success of Inga Alley Cropping is due to the families who participate. The Inga system has ALWAYS been a bottom-up process. As our numbers have grown, there has emerged a self-perpetuating momentum. Because this is a relatively new system, it is necessary to provide one-on-one support for a family for 2 years. We are reaching a "critical mass" of families with 100% success---and a waiting list of families since the first season.Neighbors see and want for their own families the food-security and cash benefits of the Inga Alley-cropping system which contains the seeds of its own replication (literally and figuratively). There is no short-cut to the self-perpetuating momentum that is our ultimate goal. Our 240+ families serve as a model of sustainable good practice and we anticipate a doubling of the number in three years. Crucial to a rapid scaling-up of Inga Alley-cropping is the education piece for running open courses for groups of visiting government and non-government agencies, farmer groups, etc. from all over the tropics.

Target Beneficiaries

Subsistence farming families who have planted Inga alleys have increased incomes, improved livelihoods, a more nutritious diet to help combat stunting and a resilience that works in harmony with their resources. In 4 years we will have completed the Land for Life Project (now in year 7), and every year we have been on target and under budget. We have planted over 2 million trees and we will continue to add at least 40 families a year (we have a waiting list as demand for trees outpaces the capacity of our two nurseries). We have built the capacity and experience to scale-up to other regions and the experience to provide training to many other tropical regions. With Inga alley cropping in Honduras, for the first time ever, families organically grow their own sustainable food supply as well as cash crops; millions of tons of carbon have been sequestered by the anchoring of families to their land and their not moving deeper into the rainforest to slash and burn new farming plots; families for the first time are able to sell cash crops such as pepper, turmeric, pineapple, cacao, and and vanilla; rainforest and wildlife habitats are being protected as the family now has “Land for Life;” (our project name), soils are being enriched by the nitrogen-fixing Inga trees; steep and once-depleted soils are stabilized by the protection of the Inga tree’s foliage as well as by means of leaf mulch when the trees are pruned; firewood is supplied by the pruned trunks and boughs of the Inga tree, which is an important part of the process; water sources are protected and erosion stopped as the soil is now stable and does not wash away protecting rivers, streams, coral reefs and ocean life. Delegations we trained from Nicaragua, Belize, Guatemala, and other regions are implementing the Inga model and we want to get our stories out to a wider audience and show the world what needs to be scaled up. We present a compelling case for doing what is good for local economies and the environment by investing in practices that restore degraded lands and enable farmers to adapt to climate change. Our original demonstration farm borders a National Forest and it is gratifying to see species of birds and amphibians that were not on our land a few years ago have returned. No one else in the world is doing this type of complete agroforestry system at our scale and size.

Mission and Vision

Inga alley-cropping is a bottom-up solution to stopping the destruction of rainforests. Since 2012, with Inga Alley Cropping in Honduras, 240 families have organically grown their own sustainable food supply as well as cash crops; millions of tons of carbon have been sequestered by the anchoring of families to their land and their not moving deeper into the rainforest to slash and burn new farming plots; families for the first time are able to sell cash crops such as pepper, turmeric, pineapple, cacao, vanilla, and others; rainforest and wildlife habitats are being protected as the family now has “land for life;” soils are being enriched by the nitrogen-fixing Inga trees; once-depleted soils are stabilized by the protection of the Inga tree’s foliage as well as by means of leaf mulch when the trees are pruned; firewood is supplied by the pruned trunks and boughs of the Inga tree, which is an important part of the process; water sources are protected as the soil is now stable and does not wash away; erosion is controlled as soil does not wash into rivers and streams and coral reefs and ocean life is also protected.

Innovation Description

The only sustainable system to emerge from years of scientific research was Inga’s system of alley cropping, which uses nitrogen-fixing tree species from the genus Inga planted in hedgerows. Inga trees maintain soil fertility and good harvests annually, thus breaking the slash-and-burn cycle and allowing families to gain long-term food security on one piece of land. Inga alleys out-compete aggressive and invasive weeds which dominate the farmers’ plots. This closed system is a revolutionary cycle--since 2012, our Honduran-led team has planted over 2 millions trees--providing resilient and organic food and cash crops for 250 families--all successful. We are solving multiple problems with one "wonder tree" not just addressing symptoms or regenerating land. We are establishing critical mass with a truly sustainable food system which also significantly reduces carbon, protects water sources, and prevents erosion. Our project (while affected by weather) is able to follow nature's cycle. Our nurseries raise hundreds of thousands of seedlings and plants for the planting season. After basic site preparation, Inga alleys are planted and top-dressed with our rock phosphate and food crops sown. The crops are harvested; the trees pruned; and the cycle is repeated. Our system is low-input, simple and debt-free.

Competitive Advantage

We support smallholder farmers to increase both the yield and nutritional value of their crops, as well as fair market access. We work side-by-side with the families who have seen for themselves that planting Inga alleys changes lives and offers a low-input system that allows all members of the family to work together close to their home. The nurseries provide regional non-hybrid cultivars and local seed which helps promote food sovereignty. We were recognized by the Central American Parliament in Feb. 2016 in Guatemala City and cited in the World Conservation Congress in 2012 for food security, ecosystem restoration, and carbon sequestration. We are a MIT SOLVER in 2017 and Sustainable Development Synergistic Solution finalist in 2018. We are a featured presenter at Harvard's Planetary Health Symposium for June 2018. We have the knowledge, strong collaborations, experience, and ability to scale Inga alley-cropping to the entire tropics. This is a global challenge--the sustainable use of natural resources is essential for agriculture to become less consumptive, more environmentally protective and economically efficient. This is essential to achieve near-and long-term goals for food security, economic viability and quality of life.

Planned Goals and Milestones

We will continue to work with partner Royal Botanic Garden Kew to identify analog species for regions where Inga are not indigenous.
Training centers with teaching and accommodations for large group instruction as well as Inga plots and seed orchards will mark the beginning of a new Green Revolution.
Funding Goal400,000
New Implemented CountriesDominican Republic, Peru
Recruit20 volunteers and 10 part-time instructors
New FeatureRegional/national teaching centers/regional nurseries

Milestones

Jun 2018
Recognition ReceivedVERIFIED
ORGANIZATIONUnited Nations
Mar 2017
Recognition ReceivedVERIFIED
Date Unknown
New Country Implemented In
Belize
Date Unknown
New Country Implemented In
Guatemala
Date Unknown
New Country Implemented In
Honduras
Date Unknown
New Country Implemented In
Nicaragua

Supporting Materials

INGAbrochure2017.pdf